When Mind Over Matter Becomes Dangerous

When Mind Over Matter Becomes Dangerous

Picture this, you’re at your top physical game. You’ve just started your freshmen year of college as a Division I swimmer. You’re excited to represent your school and crank out an amazing year.

But about a month into your season, you begin to experience back pain. You chalk it up to harder practices, increased muscle, and great stress on your body so you push through. Pain is weakness leaving the body right? You wrap up your year with best times and an easy spot on the Conference Championship team.

Welcome back sophomore year! Hard practices yes, the drive to perform well yes, back pain…yes. And it’s worse. But you’re not a newbie anymore, you have to keep your varsity spot on the team so you continue on as normal.  You wrap up the year with little improvement, barely make the Conference Championship team and more pain.

Junior year, you’re an upperclassman now. Time to set a good example for the younger members of the team. Work hard, compete harder, and experience back pain like you’ve never felt before. If you’re in the pool, pain. If you’re sitting in class, pain. Trying to go to sleep? Pain. But don’t slack off, take a break, or take it easy — everyone has tough practices and you need to show how a good athlete can put mind over body. You wrap up your year by watching everyone get on a plane to head to Conference, you got slower and didn’t make the cut.

Summer before Senior year you go in for a check up and casually mention your back pain. Your doctor schedules an MRI “just to be sure it’s nothing” and says they will call you in a few days with the results and a small PT plan. But after your scan you barely make the lobby when you get a call, it’s time to head back upstairs. Something is very wrong.

Your life changes in an instant when the doctors put the photo of your spine on the board. Six of your vertebrae are broken. Your nerve damage is extensive. You’ve let this get out of hand. You’re done with your swimming career.

Senior year arrives and you’re excited for your first swim meet of the year. Which you get to watch from the stands.

Everyone wants to believe they can overcome physical pain. “No pain no gain” and “mind over matter” are phrases we use all the time to help us get over a tough workout or bump in the road on our way to our goals. But pain, real pain, should never be ignored.

If you think you’re hurting yourself you probably are. At Elite you can go to a personal trainer and make sure you’re doing an exercise properly, or visit our SMART clinic to make sure everything is working ship shape.

At the end of the day, no matter what your goals are, you need your body to get you there. So don’t destroy it in the process. If you need to dial it back, then you have to dial it back. And truly, that’s what takes real courage and willpower.

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